By @SimonCocking interesting interview with Alex Nechoroskovas Loves and . Proud geek. junkie. Craft beer addict. Cyclist, footballer fitness freak. Runs

Your background briefly?

I’m an economist by profession, growth hacker by trait, entrepreneur by nature. I have worked in both tech startups and global financial organisations. I’m a tech geek, footballer and travel enthusiast.

How did you end up doing what you do now?

I always had a passion for startups – I’ve started a company to pay for my university degree. I absolutely loved it but I realised I didn’t have enough skills to make it work so I got a job as a consulting at Ernst & Young. I was specialised in financial services working with banks and insurance companies. I saw how inefficient they were and about that time, around 2012-2013, FinTech started to emerge. I started following the subject passionately as it combined a lot of things that I love – ‘cool’ tech, finance, entrepreneurship. I felt like it was hard to stay up to date with all that was going on and decided to start a newsletter and the rest is history 🙂

What’s the goal of your FinTech newsletter? How is it doing?

It’s quite simple. I want to make it easy for people to stay up to date with what’s going on in FinTech industry. I want to challenge their perspective of the industry. I often add articles that are not necessarily ‘prime’ fintech, but I bring in innovation topics for the wider startup industry or some thought pieces from well know creators. For me personally, I don’t see it as a business, and I’m not trying to monetise it. My goal is to be useful. A lot of good things happen after that. I had job offers, I met a number of very interesting people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I learned a hell of a lot too. If you haven’t make sure to sign-up to FinTech Summary newsletter – all the fintech news you need, summarised.

Congratulations on your recent rating in the global FinTech influencers – where did it all go right?

Thanks! I think the main thing was persistency. Someone once told me, if you want to create a voice in an industry/start a blog etc. no one will pay attention to you during your first year. After ’shouting at the passing trains’ for a year people will start to notice you. There are a lot of upstarters who give it a try for 2-3 months and give up. Rightly no one pays attention to them because they don’t stick around. Why would you? One day, after about a year it all just clicked. The lesson here is to simply not give up and keep going.

In the banking / innovation / fintech & blockchain world, what are you excited about?

Firstly I’m excited about all the changes and how quickly they are happening. For me, the 3 things that will have the biggest impact are:

– Chatbots (and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning that powers them), I think they can do some incredibly smart things and drastically change the way we interact with companies or the tasks that they do. For example, a company in the US called Digit, it’s a bot that will analyse your spending behaviour and take a tiny amount of money when it thinks you least need and put into a savings account. This addressing one of the fundamental problems humans face – themselves. Most people simply don’t have the discipline to save and Digit solves that problem.

– Protocol Innovation, much like blockchain is a protocol for money transfer there are many other protocols that can transform our lives – OpenBazaar is a great example, it is a peer-to-peer protocol allowing eBay style auctions just without the need for eBay, which saves both sides 10-15% transaction fees in total. Or the new content ownership models where the network (all of us) get to share the profit that is generated because of the network effect (think Facebook valuation), such as Steemit.

– UX (user experience) advancement – I love how we scrap the processes and completely redesign the experience of our everyday financial lives. For example the new challenger, mobile banking apps like Mondo. We use our phones all the time it only makes sense that we can use them for our financial lives too. And not simply see your account balance but use them effectively and efficiently which we can’t currently do with all the big banks like HSBC, Lloyds or Barclays.

Can traditional banks successfully innovate to deal with the rise of FinTech banking disrupters?

Absolutely. They just need to be brave. Just look at Vodafone and M-Pesa. It was a very bold move from Vodafone to start SMS payment system in Africa which has picked-up drastically. I think there are two challenges for banks – corporate inertia and customer targeting. A lot of the innovation coming from FinTechs is addressing market segments that banks don’t traditionally go for because they are deemed unprofitable. But with the world’s economy growing rapidly and globalisation at its peak a lot of seemingly unprofitable customers can be very profitable after a year or two. At that point, it’s too late for banks as these customers are snapped up by the competitor, frequently a FinTech. If banks adopt a longer term mentality they can compete. But realistically I don’t think there is going to be one winner, there will be a lot of acquisitions, partnerships, some FinTech will become dominant players too, but I doubt we won’t see the big names that we currently see in 10 years time.

If you could make everyone in Banking do what you told them, what would you command them to do?

There are too many politics in the bank’s decision-making process which stifles innovation. Companies more often than not choose a tactical solution instead of a strategic one. There are just so many pain killers you can take without addressing the cause. The longer you postpone it, the worse it will get. My advice to them would be, get buy-in at the very top to do a strategic change, bring new systems in. Sacrifice a few financial quarters. Take the medicine, it’s not pleasant, but it will make you better in the long run. One of the biggest reasons against is the unwillingness to upset shareholders. I would argue that a well laid out plan would be pleased shareholders if it means increasing market share in the long term. Just look at Amazon, they haven’t delivered profit until last year. That’s 20 years of nearly zero net income. Are Amazon’s shareholders complaining? I don’t think so. Amazon built itself into one of the best companies out there right now, in my opinion.

How soon will blockchain achieve wider adoption? (If you think it will)

I think it most certainly will, there are some big organisations invested in it. These companies, particularly the big implementation companies such as Big 4, Accenture or IBM have a lot of influence on how the adoption will go. I think they are a good proxy for where we are in the adoption cycle. These big consulting firms are not early adopters, they come in at that intersection between early adopters and early majority. Once they do invest and start pushing it to their clients early and late majority forms. The Big 4 have recently announced the plans to launch a blockchain consortium, I think this is the moment where the time starts ticking. The sales packs will be leaving the doors in the next 3 months and implementations will start in 12 months. Normally a large implementation takes 2-5 years (3 on average). My guess is that in about 3-4 years blockchain will be mainstream. Same thing happened with Big Data, Data Visualisation and The Cloud. Once these big professional services firms start promoting the solution you see adoption picking up and it turning into ‘mainstream product’ in 3-4 years.

Which thought leaders do you like to read / follow?

I receive a lot of newsletters and I don’t always have the time to read every single one of them but there are few names that I will always open – Fred Wilson, Benedict Evans, Seth Godin, Chris Skinner.

How do you manage online / offline, work/life challenges?

Ruthless planning and discipline. I use the agile approach that is employed by the software developers. I would set myself tasks for the week (one sprint) and then pick a number of tasks from that pool every day. Unless the circumstances are exceptional I don’t add anything new to that week’s sprint. By the end of the week, hopefully, everything is done and next week I form a new sprint with tasks from backlog. This way once I’ve done the tasks for that day I can relax and focus on ‘life’. After all running a digital life is not that different to developing a digital product.

 


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